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From To A Violent Grave

by Jeffrey Potter

The following extracts are taken from Jeffrey Potter's book To A Violent Grave: An Oral Biography of Jackson Pollock (New York: Pushcart Press, 1987). The numbers in square brackets indicate the original page numbers.

During the summer [of 1950] Jackson met Hans Namuth [...]. Hans, along with Irving Penn and others, had studied photography under Alexey Brodovitch. His meeting with Jackson was to lead to a distinguished career as a photographer of artists. [p128]

That Jackson had been letting Hans photograph him that summer was unexpected; he seemed too shy, it had to include being camera-shy. Even more surprising was letting Hans film him (in association with film editor Paul Falkenberg). [p129]

The Namuth film had an exciting debut at MOMA on June 14, 1951.

HANS NAMUTH: Historical things began to move for me now.
Jackson was not happy about his narration; his voice does sound flatter and more nasal on the soundtrack than it was, although tension improved his speech rhythm by speeding it up. He felt the score by Morton Feldman was just right for the film, and its concentration reminded him of his own work and the way it sometimes felt in process.
MORTON FELDMAN: They came to audition me, Lee [Krasner, Jackson's wife] having scouted me out, an unknown composer. John Cage was there, and I scored for the film as I would for choreography. It was the beginning of my life, really; I hadn't had entree and now people were talking about me. As to Jackson being camera conscious, I think he was too much a part of what he was doing. His voice in the narration is the result of the primitive recording; it was all done on a shoestring [2,000 dollars, according to Hans Namuth], and my fee was a small black and white drawing [ink on Japanese paper, 1951].

It was unusual how quickly that relationship of ours became intense; when Jackson liked somebody, he kind of took over - he was reaching out for people always. He had great insight into me, even if in a night wandering anxiety he called up my wife from whom I was separated and woke her up. She told him she didn't care if he was Rembrandt, you don't do that. [pp139-140]

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